MVP Race: Who are the best players based on advanced analytics and impact metrics?

·8 min read

As part of a new series at HoopsHype, we are examining who should win the NBA MVP award based on what we can learn from advanced analytics.

For this survey, each impact metric was included because it was considered among the most trustworthy by NBA executives when asked by HoopsHype during this past offseason.

The metrics pulled included Daily Plus-Minus (DPM), Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM), LEBRON (BBall-Index), RAPTOR (FiveThirtyEight), Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) and Box Plus-Minus (Basketball-Reference). We also added the model of Box Plus-Minus from Backpicks.com as well as the newest impact metric, Daily-Updated Rating of Individual Performance (DRIP).

ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus was not included because the data has not been published yet this season. However, if it’s publicly available by our next update, RPM will also be calculated.

Because each of these metrics is graded on a per-100 possession scale, we adjusted for playing time by multiplying their impact contribution on each metric by the percentage of possible minutes they have played for their team so far this season.

As with the official vote, the top player received 10 points, the second received seven points, the third received five points, the fourth received three points, and the fifth player received one point. If a player finished outside of the Top 5, they didn’t receive any votes from that measurement.

Only players that made the Top 5 on least one of these eight metrics were included in our rankings below. Some of the most notable omissions include DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young, Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns, LaMelo Ball, Luka Doncic, Paul George and Devin Booker.

To see where our staff at HoopsHype feels the MVP race is as of right now, however, click here. To see who should make the All-NBA ballots based on HoopsHype’s Global Rating, click here.

Jimmy Butler (Miami)

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Share of the vote: 1.25 percent of maximum amount possible

Even after adjusting for playing time, Miami’s Jimmy Butler still managed to finish in the Top 5 on Basketball Reference’s Box Plus-Minus (BPM). Butler has only played in 18 of the 31 games that the Heat have had so far this season but he has looked fantastic when he has been on the floor. If he is able to play more minutes as the season progresses, Butler could easily rise on these rankings when we have our next update.

For the latest Jimmy Butler rumors, click here.

D’Angelo Russell (Minnesota)

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Share of the vote: 1.25 percent of maximum amount possible

Based on preseason expectations, Minnesota’s D’Angelo Russell had arguably the most surprising appearance on these leaderboards. But he was one of the leaders in Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM), which makes sense when you look at his on-off numbers so far this season – the Timberwolves are 21.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is playing compared to when he is not. As outlined by The Ringer’s Rob Mahoney, DLo plays a central role in the league’s best five-man lineup.

For the latest D’Angelo Russell rumors, click here.

Donovan Mitchell (Utah)

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Share of the vote: 1.25 percent of maximum amount possible

It’s a little perplexing Utah’s Donovan Mitchell didn’t show up higher on these leaderboards considering how well both he and the Jazz have played so far this season. Mitchell is in the midst of averaging 25.2 points while adding 5.0 assists and a career-high 1.7 steals per game so far this season. His ability to pick-and-roll opponents into oblivion helped him earn him one of the top spots using the Backpicks.com version of Box Plus-Minus courtesy of Ben Taylor.

For the latest Donovan Mitchell rumors, click here.

Fred VanVleet (Toronto)

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Share of the vote: 5.00 percent of maximum amount possible

One of the reasons why Toronto’s Fred VanVleet showed up on multiple leaderboards is because the best ability is availability. The guard currently leads the league in minutes played per game, appearing in more than 75 percent of all possible minutes for the Raptors. Even though his offensive role yields him a lower usage rate than other top finishers, VanVleet is currently the league’s most efficient – and one of the most productive – players in the NBA when shooting off the catch.

For the latest Fred VanVleet rumors, click here.

Chris Paul (Phoenix)

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Share of the vote: 7.50 percent of maximum amount possible

Considering the fact that the Phoenix Suns have the best winning percentage in the NBA, it’s only logical that they would have a strong presence on these leaderboards. In this case, that player is Chris Paul, who has had a tremendous impact on the success of the organization since he arrived. He fared particularly well on TheAnalyst’s Daily-Updated Rating of Individual Performance (DRIP).

For the latest Chris Paul rumors, click here.

Darius Garland (Cleveland)

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Share of the vote: 8.75 percent of maximum amount possible

When adjusted for playing time, Cleveland’s Darius Garland currently has the second-best score on Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) so far this season. Garland is having a career-best year thus far and putting together an All-Star campaign for the Cavaliers, who have exceeded expectations all season long. The 21-year-old guard is averaging 19.1 points and 7.3 assists per game and the Cavs have the fourth-best net rating in the league.

For the latest Darius Garland rumors, click here.

Rudy Gobert (Utah)

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Share of the vote: 11.25 percent of maximum amount possible

It’s not hard to see why someone like Utah’s Rudy Gobert has such a massive impact on winning. If you look at just the unadjusted defensive metrics, the big man presently tops the list for Daily Plus-Minus, LEBRON, DRIP and RAPTOR. If you watch him play with any regularity, it’s even more obvious the way that he changes the flow of the game. Utah has the best net rating in the league right now and Gobert is one of the main reasons why.

For the latest Rudy Gobert rumors, click here.

Kevin Durant (Brooklyn)

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Share of the vote: 36.25 percent of maximum amount possible

Although all of the aforementioned players are having incredibly solid seasons, as of right now, there are only four serious candidates for this season’s MVP award. One of those players is Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, whose off-the-charts levels of talent will always lend him serious consideration for such a trophy. Durant is currently leading the league with 29.7 points per game and is the main reason why the Nets have the best record in the Eastern Conference despite the fact that James Harden has shown some regression and Kyrie Irving is not yet playing. Durant, however, isn’t the overall leader in any of the catch-all stats included in this survey.

For the latest Kevin Durant rumors, click here.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)

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Share of the vote: 41.25 percent of maximum amount possible

Already a two-time MVP and the league’s reigning NBA Finals MVP, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the three players who currently ranks in the Top 5 on all of the metrics that we surveyed. Although he is only leading on DARKO’s Daily Plus-Minus (DPM), that’s actually the measurement that most NBA executives said they trusted the most when we asked them as much during this past offseason.

For the latest Giannis Antetokounmpo rumors, click here.

Stephen Curry (Golden State)

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Share of the vote: 67.50 percent of maximum amount possible

This certainly feels like the kind of season where Golden State’s Stephen Curry – who is now the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers – could win another MVP award and he currently leads the race based on our voters here at HoopsHype and ESPN’s straw poll of media voters. While he already has two such trophies to his name, the Warriors star is undoubtedly enjoying another special season. Curry is averaging a career-best 5.3 three-pointers per game and the Warriors are back near the top of the standings once again. Curry leads all players in Daily-Updated Rating of Individual Performance (DRIP) and Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) so far this season.

For the latest Stephen Curry rumors, click here.

Nikola Jokic (Denver)

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Share of the vote: 78.75 percent of maximum amount possible

It’s about time that we give the league’s reigning MVP, Denver’s Nikola Jokic, the respect that he deserves. Jokic currently doesn’t have the support that he had on the Nuggets this past season considering Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are both out for extended periods. However, he is enjoying the same amount of success he did when he won MVP. The big man currently leads all players in Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM) as well as LEBRON (BBall-Index), RAPTOR (FiveThirtyEight), Box Plus-Minus (Basketball-Reference) and BP Box Plus-Minus (Backpicks) in 2021-22. As of right now, based on analytics, he is the league’s MVP.

For the latest Nikola Jokic rumors, click here.

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